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Restricting the use of cells and improving care for mentally ill


police cell

From today (1st June 2016) Avon and Somerset Constabulary will restrict the use of police cells for people who are ‘temporarily sectioned’ for exceptional circumstances only.

Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens and Avon and Somerset Constabulary have been working hard with clinical commissioning groups and the mental health trusts covering Avon and Somerset to improve the care for people in mental health crisis.

Between December 2014 and December 2015, Avon and Somerset Constabulary ‘temporarily sectioned’ 260 people in police cells under the Mental Health Act 1983, however 75% did not present an "unmanageable risk” in a health setting.

Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens said: “I believe that police cells are not a place to detain someone experiencing mental health crisis.  I’m proud to say that the police, clinical commissioning groups and the mental health trusts covering Avon and Somerset are all focused on improving care.

“There are a number of joint initiatives underway to help support people experiencing a mental health crisis such as the mental health ‘street triage’ service in Bristol. Mental health nurses and police officers are working together to assess the best option for the individual. People who are mentally ill require specialist help, and this is just one of the ways we are working with our partners to support those most in need.  Along with other initiatives we are planning alongside our partners, I am hopeful that from today, we will only see police custody used for those experiencing crisis  in truly ‘exceptional circumstances,’ putting an end to this out-dated practice.”

Avon and Somerset Constabulary has been working with health partners since 2015 in preparation for these changes. They have defined processes and identified alternatives to ensure vulnerable people are taken to a health based place of safety, and agreed a joint escalation process to be followed if one is not available.

Assistant Chief Constable Nikki Watson said; “It is important that people in mental health crisis receive the right care and support and at the right time. We have already significantly improved the way we work with our partners to help people experiencing mental health crisis, but a police cell is not the right place for people who are vulnerable and in need of specialist healthcare and support.”

By “Exceptional Circumstances” Avon and Somerset Constabulary mean if the person’s behaviour would pose an unmanageably high risk to other patients, staff or other users if the person were to be detained within a health care setting.

Police custody should never be used for young people (under 18 years) detained under the Mental Health Act.

Posted on Wednesday 1st June 2016
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